02 July 2010

Jul 2

Reference links:
Old Testament

Half way through! (Well, today or yesterday depending on how you round the 0.5.)

Today's reading is problematic. Isaiah is a pretty important prophet, and he gives Hezekiah a message from the Lord saying that Hezekiah will die of his illness. As Isaiah leaves, he gets another message from God saying that Hezekiah will live (because of Hezekiah's prayers prayed to God).

Now, either Isaiah lied the first time and God hadn't spoken to him or he gave a false prophecy the first time (i.e., he misunderstood God)  or God lied to Isaiah to get Hezekiah to pray for healing or God and Isaiah colluded on the lying or God really did change his mind. None of these options is particularly appealing. I suppose the option which both retains God's role as an omniscient timeless being (not that we have seen that claimed in the OT so far, but whatever) and maintains Isaiah's reputation as a super awesome prophet is that they were colluding on the lying.

After Hezekiah recovers, he meets with some envoys from Babylon. Clearly, this is foreshadowing. Even if I did not know that Judah eventually falls to Babylon, the tone of the Biblical author, essentially "Gee golly, Hezekiah sure was naive to show all his riches to the envoys from Babylon", is enough to let you know that nothing Good can come of this. Isaiah tells the king that Very Bad Things are going to happen, but Hezekiah is cool with it because they will not happen until after he is dead.

Hezekiah's son becomes king after his death. The son, Manasseh, was only twelve when he became king. I wonder if there were older sons who were killed or otherwise removed. It seems kind of odd that Hezekiah did not have his first son until he was 42 (derived from the reading from two days ago which says that Hezekiah became king at age 25 and ruled for 29 years. 25 + 29 - 12 = 42.

Manasseh is an evil king and undoes all the good that his father did. He sets up shrines and prophets and idols. Because of these evils, God says,
I will bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of those who hear about it will tingle with horror. I will judge Jerusalem by the same standard I used for Samaria and the same measure I used for the family of Ahab. I will wipe away the people of Jerusalem as one wipes a dish and turns it upside down. Then I will reject even the remnant of my own people who are left, and I will hand them over as plunder for their enemies. For they have done great evil in my sight and have angered me ever since their ancestors came out of Egypt.
It is only after this pronouncement that the Biblical author sees fit to mention that Manasseh was also killing people until
Jerusalem was filled from one end to the other with innocent blood.
I know I have a different point of view than the temperamental Yahweh, but I would think that should be considered worse than setting up shrines and whatnot.

After Manasseh, his son Amon rules and is also evil. Then Josiah becomes king, and he did what was right.

New Testament

Paul is back in Jerusalem. The leaders there warn him that some people might be looking to cause people trouble because,
the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs.
Trouble is caused, even after Paul goes out of his way to show that he does respect the laws of Moses. The text implies that the troublemakers are being quite unreasonable.

However, let's think about this for a moment in the context of our recent Old Testament readings. The theme of our current readings is that straying from God's law, the law of Moses, brings death and destruction. Failing to follow the law and worshiping other Gods causes the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and the near destruction of their people.

Now, here Paul comes along, and he is preaching some pretty risky things. Even if he is not saying that Jews should not follow the Mosaic law, he is certainly saying that the Gentiles are part of the covenant community despite not following those laws. It is also likely that he is telling the Jews that they do not have to follow the Mosaic law once they become believers even though they can. Plus, he is spreading the word that a man was God.

Now, given the way God has reacted to betrayal in the past, can you really blame the Jews for finding Paul threatening? As far as they can tell, he seems to be trying to encourage Jews to call the wrath of God down upon them again.

Now, I'm not saying that riots and violence are the right way to respond to such concerns, but the concerns that the Jews have are legitimate, and the Biblical author ought to have taken them more seriously.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing of particular note.